Does it even matter?
I became aware during my teens of the concept that “my red is your blue” thanks to a grey pencil case I had. Everyone else said it was purple.
The class quickly found itself in a #thedress situation. Except I was the only one who saw it as grey – everyone else in the class of 18 pupils found it to be purple (to be honest I was annoyed, as purple is one of my fave colours – I’d have far preferred to see purple). Eventually the physics teacher took me away into a cupboard and gave me a colour blindness test, which left him more puzzled than me and suggesting to my parents I see a specialist. The specialist diagnosed me as colour dyslexic – I see a colour, but my brain calls it something different was what I think he was trying to say; I didn’t really understand it at the time. None of it sounded right, but I swallowed this as just ANOTHER subject in life I felt at odds with. I learnt that my “something” is not always someone elses “something”. It left me with all kinds of existential questions about colour and the human perception of it if it were possible to have such HUGE variations. Who was right? How do we know they are right? Who made the decision on what was right? And actually……what the hell else is subject to this kind of variation?
I started to suspect that emotions were the feeling version of colours.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the two subjects are highly interlinked?
Feeling blue, a red mist, green with envy, and so on.
Like all awkward teens I was feeling horribly nervous about doing things in front of people – especially things I enjoyed because criticism about that hurt more. I got very confused about whether I was feeling excited about my favourite thing, or scared I’d fuck it up and be told I suck at it.
My Mum was reading “Feel the Fear and do it anyway”. She was trying to get me to read it, but I felt it was unnecessary – the title alone was a lesson in itself.
I liked the concept because, as I was already aware of the correlation between fear and excitement, I figured that maybe they were interchangable. My only issue with that, was if they are interchangable, kind of what’s the point in them? They are polar opposites, but can feel the same? How unhelpful.
I think in general the human race makes way too much of feelings and emotions. We are told to explore them, to relive them, to talk about them, and sometimes I feel that if you are not extremely emotional about everything then you are seen as repressed. There’s lots of trains of thought, and advice out there that all seem to end in tears – not because it goes badly, but because that’s the point of it. It’s like people aren’t really sure if they are happy or sad until it’s making them cry. I also can’t help but notice another two polar opposite feelings having the same outcome. How unhelpful.
I mean what are tears? really? What use are they? Apart from eye cleaning fluid what’s the purpose? I know that an infant cries so it’s parents come and pick it up and don’t leave it behind to be eaten by wolves or dinosaurs, or urban foxes etc, but why do adults cry? I know they happen when we are overwhelmingly happy or sad, but I just don’t know if they are helpful?
I’ve seen people brought to tears about small issues, seemingly because they think it’s appropriate or will invoke a reaction from others around them, but they didn’t seem very happy or sad – just needy. I’ve heard people tell tales about how things made them cry as if it is a good thing, as if they should be admired for how sad or happy they felt in that moment. They wear their emotional extremes as a badge of honour.
This is weird for me. I mean I’m not unemotional. I’m not heartless. I do have and talk about my feelings, and I DO cry, but I don’t get any validation from it being seen. I don’t think people who are crying need more praise or consoling, than someone who is being honest and unemotional. If I am arguing with someone I don’t feel bursting into tears is ever going to get me what I want. I feel like it will just escalate things because I will be seen as being manipulative. If tears are the “final word” then first to cry wins. How easy.
The reason I find “identifying” and “exploring” to be unhelpful is like this – what does yesterdays rain have to do with today’s sun? It’s about the here and now, the moment. The feelings I have NOW, not ten years ago when something sad happened. You can’t look back or you’ll get bogged down on the HWoT and never get a real understanding of how to make the decision to be happy because you’re too engrossed in everything that has made you sad. How will feeling old emotions, with their inter-changeability, and variations bring about a change in tomorrow’s? It is training your brain to remain in that sad state – but if you want to be happy you have to train happy thoughts.
It’s odd that we train humans to let out bottled up feelings- most modern animal trainers are doing the opposite, training horses and dogs to have a level headed sense of balance about their work. You wouldn’t expect to train a horse that’s scared of going into the horse box to get into one if you told it to go back over all it’s memories and feel the fear of every scary trip it’s made, reliving it and “letting that fear out”. It’s about making this time, and every time following it pleasant and positive, and letting the horse explore the box – not the feelings – and see that really there’s nothing to fear.
(FYI that’s exactly where the term “level headed ” comes from – If you were a cowboy back in the day of inventing sayings, you wouldn’t ride a horse that had its head up in the air fearfully scanning the horizon, you waited until it had relaxed and dropped its head and neck to be level with the body because that is an outward sign it’s calm, balanced and thinking clearly). We’re all mammals at the end of the day, and I wonder how all this exercising our emotions is going to keep us balanced? Is bottling it up really bad? What if you don’t let bottled up feelings out, but just chose not to feel them again? If you just replaced the sensation with something more positive?
“Feelings are just energy” Says Morgan Norma Roche of Keystone Healing. “If you give them a name you give them way more power than they should have”.
I understood exactly what she meant when she said this – if they are so interchangeable, they are almost already redundant by the time you recognise you are having a feeling meaning identifying them might not be the key either. So what are we meant to do with feelings? ……..
Morgan went on to explain to me that in her healing treatments and workshops that help people to improve themselves, she gets everyone to recognise the feeling, but not give it a name. “I say “right, let’s not give this a name, it’s not important, feel it for a moment, then thank it and send it love” and the feeling immediately leaves”. In doing this she feels it empowers the individual to take control without overextending the feeling, leaving them in a positive state of mind. There is a lot of research out there to show the heart is directly linked to emotions – not just on Valentines cards – but in the rhythm it beats. The most perfect state for your heart to be in is when you are feeling the emotion of gratitude/thanks. This is probably why Morgan also teaches her students to “Live an Attitude of Gratitude”.
In life we seem to value an awful lot of behaviours labelled as “positive” that are associated with buoyant, or extroverted personalities. As a society we do little to reward a calm and placid nature in a human. It’s the difference between feeling psyched and feeling peaceful I’m talking about. We encourage extroverted behaviour, put over active and reactive humans on pedestals, admire enormous power, and view the peace makers and the thoughtful introverts who are quietly working away in labs making all our technological advances as, weaker, or geekier, than those who might smite us down. That’s ok – that’s just normal pack animal behaviour – we’re either looking for a leader to follow, or looking for a leader to take over from. We can’t help it as we’re predators by nature, especially those who are extroverted, so it’s no wonder they have risen to the top of the pack and are telling us all we need to be just like them to do well in life.
I can’t help feel though that it must be excrutiating for introverts to be forced to be extroverted on that level – it can only lead to feelings of imbalance. I also imagine that calming some of today’s extroverts down could only be a good thing!
I think I see parts of society questioning the legitimacy of extroversion as “the best way to live”. It is not really helpful today, on an over populated and politically inflamed planet and the confusion about where all this fits in with the enormous leaps forward our species makes daily, are causing a lot of us a lot of tears. It’s not a surprise that we tell people to feel emotional rather than deal effectively with emotion, because really we are having problems recognising TRULY positive emotions in the first place.
Look at pain – another of the body’s communications – it’s nothing more than a message to the brain that something’s not right. It can be disproportionate to the problem, and it can continue long after the problem has healed. How unhelpful.
Emotions are just signals from the emotional body. Feelings like this are part of instincts. Instincts were there to keep us alive, like pain, back when we were cave men – you felt nervous, or fearful, or hurt, and you knew to leg it or hide. If you were happy or felt safe you knew to make more out of that, settle within the environment you found it in, and when it changed, move on again. Most of us don’t need these in daily life – we’re not at risk on the same level as a caveman. However some of us seem to have these feelings turned on, amped up, unable to shut off again, tuned in disproportionately to everything- we feel like we’re dying but all that’s really wrong is that we might miss the bus, for instance. The task of travelling becomes confused with the instinct to flee and we feel danger.
It appears, that in modern times, the purpose of feelings to relay messages to the individual has been misused to relay messages to the masses – to use that part of the parent in all of us to respond to the crying child. Give it what it wants, make it feel safe. Once you’re an adult I’m not sure that’s anyone else’s responsibility though – how unsafe are you? Obviously there are people out there who are, or have known, real danger and I am not including them in this – they absolutely need the help of the society they live in, but I am talking about the over stressed, the over worked, the unmotivated, unhappy masses on antidepressants and group therapy. Is it people not taking responsibility for their own mindset and emotions that is leaving us with an epidemic of depression right now? Are people believing that pills and groups will fix them, when really they might need to decide that modern life, and achieving success as we define today, is not really for them?
The pressure of having eternal beauty, a sports car, massive salary, and perfect home in the perfect location, the ever smiling family in activity day selfies, with perfectly dressed, immaculate children, is all over social media; but just not available to some of us. For others they are not in possession of the skills to maintain it even if they got it. The worst thing is when you DO get it and you still don’t feel like you’re “there” yet. It doesn’t fill the holes in your life. It doesn’t get you the validation you thought it would – so now you have a baby you can be in the “mum” group, except you find you are not really classed as a Mum by the Mum’s with two or more kids, and so the cycle of keeping up with the Jones’ continues. Actually it’s bloody hard work keeping it all going, and most of us don’t even know why we’re doing it.
So how about we decide not to think about how our feelings make us feel, but how we’d like them to make us feel?
When I get up in the morning and feel “down” I can ask myself – am I really “down”? Maybe I am just calm? Maybe this is what it feels like to be in perfect balance because there’s not a lot of emotion going on, it’s pretty low energy and monotone. Surely that’s what balance feels like? I am leveled out at one point, and just because I am not jumping around shouting “Hell Yeah!!!!” to every suggestion or idea that comes my way, doesn’t mean I am not happy or feeling positive. Maybe I am just happy, and calm, and maybe everyone else just needs to be satisfied with that? Maybe everyone else just needs to realise that this state of mind is a part of who I am; it’s my introverted, relaxed side – but it’s no less happy. Maybe I can consider that depressed and balanced are interchangeable? And actually – that’s pretty helpful.